In November last year I presented a challenge to all the boys in the school, claiming that I could teach any one of them to sing, and that I would be forming a choir to demonstrate this. Not in any way to demonstrate my teaching skills, but purely to make the point that I believe that anyone can sing if they have the courage to try. I was genuinely surprised by the uptake by some 35 boys and staff, all of whom told me that they really believed that they could not sing. Since January I have been thrilled by how much commitment they have shown to the task. In the past couple of weeks, as the date of our performance has moved closer, I have had individuals booking times with me to check that they are in shape, and even a ‘harmony part’ sectional rehearsal with five rugby/rowing mad 6th formers. Amazing.
This morning, 6 months on from that initial challenge, The Choir who can’t sing did sing – Take That’s Shine – to an audience of over 400, at the beginning of one of our fortnightly whole school singing practices. Although we sang to just the girls back in February, this was our first performance to a capacity crowd!
And did they sing?! Shine is not actually an easy song to sing if you have genuine difficulty in pitching, but these guys have all learned to do that. Every member of the choir can now sing reasonably accurately in tune, although as might be expected with this new skill, they have to listen carefully to guard against slipping into old (bad) habits. But it’s a respectable sound. And they also know how to give a performance! After an engaging sotto voce start and a rousing first chorus, the energy levels crept up and up until our [trademark] cheesy key change for the final chorus clearly had the school thrilled, as was evident by the huge applause! Whether they were impressed by the fact that at times we were singing in three completely different parts (all intentional I promise) or simply by the courage of these chaps to stand in front of their peers and give it everything, I don’t really mind – I was bursting with pride for these guys!
I don’t think the school were in any doubt that they have made a transformational leap from incapable to full on committed and able, never mind their obvious enjoyment. But they actually looked quite shocked when I told them that now it was their turn; ‘We’re all going to have a go now’ At the risk of making singing practice sound dull, we usually sing hymns – so they weren’t entirely convinced at the prospect of singing Shine, complete with organ accompaniment! And sure enough, the first time around, I was confronted by a sea of fairly typically lethargic faces – however well I can get the school going in Singing Practice each fortnight, we always seem to start from scratch again! But after ten minutes they had the roof off the place – wonderful! The equilibrium shifts all the time; that ten minutes can see a real change, but without constant encouragement it swiftly returns to lethargy.
The ultimate master plan is that such a vast majority of the school are wholeheartedly committed to singing that the rest of them go with the flow. I wonder whether this is attainable, but I’m prepared to give all that it takes to get us there. The Choir who can’t sing made a difference in that quest today; top job!